An estate executor is responsible for handling the decedent's, or deceased person's, estate including bill payment and property distribution. The executor is named in the decedent's will; he receives his authority from court through legal proceedings known as probate. If an executor's responsibilities are removed before he completes his duties, a new person must be appointed to finish settling the estate.
Create an affordable will with LegalZoom
An executor is responsible for following the decedent's directions in the will and meeting court requirements. He pays the legal final debts of the decedent such as the funeral bill; he also divides and gives property to heirs according to the will. The court will require a full accounting from the executor that shows what he's done with the estate's assets; he must also provide the heirs with an accounting if they request it. An executor has a legal obligation to carry out his duties honestly and in good faith; he must protect the assets of the estate. For example, if the decedent's home has a mortgage and the payments are overdue, the home could be lost to foreclosure. The executor must pay the mortgage from the estate funds to save the home if possible.
An executor's responsibilities are removed if he formally resigns. Resignation procedures vary by state. He usually must petition the probate court that appointed him executor to resign. Further, he has to give the court a written account of what he did on the estate up to the point. An executor may resign for various reasons. For example, if he is diagnosed with a serious medical condition, he may not be able to handle all his duties. Once the court formally releases him from the position, he's no longer responsible for the estate.
Removal by Court
A probate court has the authority to remove an appointed executor. A person with an interest in the estate, such as a creditor or heir of the deceased person, usually files an executor removal petition. The person asking for the executor's removal must prove it's necessary by giving a reason that's acceptable under state laws and providing supporting evidence. Common reasons for removing an executor involve his performance. For example, an executor who is stealing from the estate or not distributing the estate to heirs isn't meeting his legal obligations or handling his responsibilities as executor.
Once an executor resigns or the court removes him, another person must be appointed to take over the responsibilities of the estate. State laws for executor replacement vary. If the will named a successor executor, the court may appoint that person as the new executor. However, if the will didn't name a replacement executor, the court has other options. If the heirs agree to the same person as executor, the court may name that person executor. In some cases, another executor isn't appointed. An administrator usually oversees the estate of a person who died without a will. If there is a valid will but no executor because the only executor named in the will was removed or resigned, the court may appoint an administrator with powers of an executor instead. This type of administrator is referred to as an administrator with the will annexed or an administrator C.T.A. An administrator C.T.A. must sign a surety bond; his signature must be witnessed. When an administrator C.T.A. pays funeral expenses, taxes, or performs any child support for the beneficiaries, persons inheriting the decedent’s estate must execute refunding bonds and releases.
References & Resources
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images